HIV cases in Northern Ireland have reached an all time high
The number of people with HIV in Northern Ireland has never been higher, a charity has revealed.
Positive Life, the charity for HIV+ people in Northern Ireland, has released information showing that there were 94 new cases of HIV diagnosed in 2016.
This has meant that the total known number of people living with HIV in the region has risen over 1000 for the first time ever.
There are now 1090 confirmed cases of the virus in Northern Ireland. This means that 6 in 100,000 people live with HIV in Northern Ireland, compared to 2 in 100,000 in England.
However, there is substantial evidence to suggest that as much as one in five people who are HIV+ are unaware of their status. Therefore, the actual number of cases may be higher.
According to Positive Life, most of the new cases were men, and the vast majority were under 50.
This follows national trends in HIV diagnosis, with statistics from the National AIDS trust showing that between two thirds and three-quarters of all new diagnoses in 2015 were men.
Positive Life also highlights that Northern Ireland has the fastest growing rates of HIV diagnoses in the UK with an approximate 20% annual increase.
Chief executive of Positive Life Jacquie Richardson addressed the news in a statement, saying: “For such a small population, we are out of kilter with the rest of the UK and it is time that more is done to address this.
“Poor sexual health is a significant burden on the well-being of people living in Northern Ireland.
“We need to get this number down significantly.”
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Richardson continued: “There should be no embarrassment or shame in getting a HIV test if a person feels that they are at risk,” she said.
“The stigma that is associated with HIV is so negative that is it a contributing factor as to why the numbers are so high.
“We need to address and overcome this ‘Northern Ireland effect’ so that many more can take control of their own sexual health.”
Many prominent UK politicians have released statements for World AIDS Day. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn marked the occasion by challenging the UK government over cuts to sexual health services.